Natalia Vodianova: I need to help my country
Natalia Vodianova felt an urge to give back to her country.
The Russian beauty has carved out a successful career as a model, walking the runway for Givenchy, Stella McCartney and Ermanno Scervino among other big name designers.
She's also shot campaigns for Calvin Klein, Louis Vuitton and Versace, but is no longer solely focused on modelling.
"There was a point, in 2003, when I was lost. I was thinking, 'Why am I still modelling?' When you learn as a child how to fight for the next day, you don’t suddenly go, ‘Wow, I’m 21. I’m going to enjoy all of this because I deserve it,'" she revealed to Glamour magazine. "At some point I said, ‘What’s next?’ Then Beslan happened [the school massacre in Russia, in which 186 children were killed] - and it sparked this will in me to give back to my country.”
In 2004 the 33-year-old launched the Naked Heart Foundation, which helps children with special needs in Russia get the support and services they need.
Her philanthropic work has raised nearly $35million. Natalia has never forgotten her background, which includes raising her half-sister Oksana, who was born with cerebral palsy and was later diagnosed with severe autism.
"Looking back on my childhood, I loved Oksana more than anything but I also realised a lot of [my family’s] struggles were because of her. So when I was setting up my foundation, I was thinking about children with special needs... I remember cutting the ribbon at the first play park I built, which was five minutes from where I lived, and all these children filling up the park. The sound of laughter was overwhelming. I cried. It was just - the most beautiful moment I’ve lived so far," she recalled.